Welcome to Tax Day.
Twenty-four percent of Americans would get an “IRS” tattoo; 36 percent would move to a different country; 15 percent would take a vow of celibacy; 11 percent would name their child “Taxes.”
Our angst over April 15 is understandable: 57 percent of us think our current tax rate is too high. Only 34 percent think it’s just right. Surprisingly, 9 percent of us think it’s too low.
Here’s the good news: tomorrow is Tax Freedom Day.
If you allocated every dollar you earned so far this year to pay your federal, state, and local taxes, your debt would be satisfied tomorrow. Everything you make beginning Wednesday would then be yours.
Tiger Woods’ “stirring triumph”
In what the New York Times is calling a “stirring triumph,” Tiger Woods won the Masters yesterday at the age of forty-three. President Trump called the win “a fantastic life comeback”; President Obama described it as “a testament to excellence, grit and determination.”
While Woods’ fifth victory at Augusta National is historic, it didn’t change history for most of us. That’s because, unless you’re involved with golf professionally, the game is a hobby for you. And hobbies are for our discretionary time. For most people, they are ancillary to our lives, not central to them.
Unfortunately, many Americans view following Jesus in the same way—as a hobby for those who choose it. To change metaphors, we see our relationship with God in the same way we see our relationship with the government: we give him what he requires so he will do what we want him to do.
A taxpayer relationship with God
C. S. Lewis described our compartmentalized lives this way: “The ordinary idea which we all have before we become Christians is this. We take as the starting point our ordinary self with its various desires and interests. We then admit that something else—call it ‘morality’ or ‘decent behavior,’ or ‘the good of society’—has claims on this self: claims which interfere with its own desires.
“Some of the things the ordinary self wanted to do turn out to be what we call ‘wrong’: well, we must give them up. Other things, which the self did not want to do, turn out to be what we call ‘right’: well, we shall have to do them.
“But we are hoping all the time that when all the demands have been met, the poor natural self will still have some chance, and some time, to get on with its own life and do what it likes. In fact, we are very like an honest man paying his taxes. He pays them all right, but he does hope that there will be enough left over for him to live on.”
Why God is not the IRS
Not one crisis or challenge in today’s headlines would have existed in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve tried to “be like God” (Genesis 3:5). Every natural disaster and disease we face is a direct consequence of their sin (Romans 8:22).
But we make our fallen world even worse when we continue repeating the sin that caused the Fall. Either God is God of our lives or we are. Either he is on our throne or we are.
Unlike the IRS, the King of the universe demands not part of our possessions but all of us. He calls us to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), to be “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). Jesus told his followers, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
This is not because God needs what we have. His government requires not one penny from its residents. It is because he can do so much more with us than we can do with ourselves. He will use every gift, ability, and resource we surrender to him for his greatest glory and our greatest good.
In this sense, every day is Tax Day.
But every day is also Tax Freedom Day.
The “reckless love of God”
Today is Monday of Holy Week. On this day, Jesus cursed a fruitless fig tree (Matthew 21:18–19).
Here we learn a crucial lesson: God measures success by fruit. The tree had a trunk and roots, branches and leaves. It might have been tall and beautiful. But it did not produce what it was created to produce.
The good news is that when we give God’s Spirit control of our lives, he manifests the “fruit” we were created to produce (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:22–23). And, as Good Friday shows, there is nothing Jesus will not do to pursue such intimacy with us.
I heard Cory Asbury’s “Reckless Love” on the radio yesterday and its prayer has been in my mind ever since: “There’s no shadow You won’t light up / Mountain You won’t climb up / Coming after me / There’s no wall You won’t kick down / Lie You won’t tear down / Coming after me.”
How reckless is your love for Jesus today?